Very Much His ‘Own’ Man

I remember seeing a documentary once on the actor Paul Newman and it showed him at home in one scene. I clearly remember a sign on a wall which read ‘Everybody who comes here, brings joy. Some by arriving, others by leaving.’

I smiled then as I’m smiling now recalling that and my admiration for Newman the actor and Newman the man who gave millions to charity went up a notch after watching that, and it was high enough to begin with.

He has appeared in films that are among my personal faves of all time. ‘Hud’ ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ and ‘The Sting’ come to mind off the top of my head.

Paul Leonard Newman was born in Ohio in 1925 and seems to have taken up the acting profession pretty much as soon as he was old enough, performing as a child at school and in children’s theatre productions. After leaving Ohio University, he served in World War Two in the US Navy.

He picked up his acting career once demobbed and studied at the Actors Studio in New York under the legendary Lee Strasberg. Married in 1951 to Jackie, he made his Broadway debut in ‘Picnic’ in 1953 and which then led to some early TV work.

He then began his run of films. First up in 1956, ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ based on the story of boxer Rocky Graziano and then in 1958, he co-starred in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ opposite Elizabeth Taylor, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.

During the making of  ‘The Long Hot Summer’ in the same year, he fell in love with Joanne Woodward, who became his second wife and with whom he stayed married until the end of his life.

‘Why go out for a hamburger, when you have steak at home?’ he would say ever after.

He was ‘Fast Eddie in ‘The Hustler’ in 1961 and then take your pick from the great films that followed that.  ‘Hud’ (1963), ‘Torn Curtain’ (1966), ‘Cool Hand Luke’ (1967) – who could forget those piercing blue eyes and the eating of all those eggs – ‘Butch and Sundance’ (1969) – ‘I got a great idea where we should go next… Australia!’ – ‘The Sting’ (1973) – Co-starring Robert Redford in both to great effect –  ‘The Towering Inferno’ (1974) ‘Slap Shot’ (1977) ‘Absence of Malice’ (1981) and The Verdict (1982.)

He finally picked up an Oscar for the revival of the character ‘Fast Eddie’ from ‘The Hustler’, in the 1986 follow up ‘The Colour of Money.’ His last film was ‘Road to Perdition’ in 2002 alongside Tom Hanks, a role that once again gained him an Oscar nomination.

He was also passionate about the world of motorsports, setting up his own Newman Freeman racing team, and taking part under the name of P.L. Newman (Paul Leonard being his Christian names as mentioned earlier.) He would go on to win four national championships and finish second in the 1979 24-hour Le Mans.

Alongside this and his acting career, he also founded the ‘Newman’s Own’ range of salad dressing, pasta sauces and the like. ALL proceeds from which were donated to charity. By 2014 this had reached $400 million.

‘The only thing is, it’s embarrassing when your salad dressing begins to out gross your movies.’

Tragedy struck in 1978, when his son Scott from his first marriage, died as a result of a drug overdose.  Newman set up the Scott Newman Center for Drug Prevention in his memory. He was simply tireless in his philanthropic ways.

His own health began to dip in 2008, with lung cancer eventually cited as the cause. He died that year age 83.

He once said ‘I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.’

Wise words. Amen brother Paul, amen.

The Mumper of SE5